Excerpt from application for Soaring Micro Award Category with Women With Altitude 2019 Awards.... although I didn't receive the Soaring Micro Award, much to my surprise I did win a Brave Rising Star Award.
Thank you to the person who nominated me as it was the catalyst for me to write my application.
Give a brief overview of your business/organisation including start date
Mountains Pilates provides gentle and effective exercise classes and private sessions to residents in the mid-to lower Blue mountains. Mountains Pilates commenced on 4 July 2015 and is coming up to its fourth year in operation.
The business structure falls under an individual sole trader ABN operated by Ellissa Nolan. Along with Mountains Pilates there are 2 other businesses attached to this ABN: ‘Coast Pilates Retreats’ and ‘Love Pilates’.
There is a sub-contracted 2nd instructor, a virtual book-keeper, digital platforms, studio hire contracts, Xero Accounting and Mind Body Software systems in place to manage the administrative, financial and client booking/payments and class delivery.
Large group matwork Pilates classes are held in studios in Glenbrook, Springwood and Faulconbridge. A home studio has been built to offer private client sessions on the reformer and small group matwork classes for pre-post natal pregnancy, back pain and personal fitness training. Mountains Pilates also offers clinic/rehabilitation Pilates in partnership with PhysioPoint Clinic in Springwood. Rehabilitation clients are also referred from a network of Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Chiropractors across the mountains.
Mountains Pilates clients range from people wishing to increase general fitness to athletic performance and works with clients under the National Disability Insurance Scheme to improve quality of life for people with with brain injury, vision impairment, hypermobility and rehabilitating from car accidents, surgeries or living with down syndrome.
The business owner Ellissa Nolan holds a Master of Contemporary Arts, Cert IV Pilates, Cert IV Arts Administration, Cert III Gym Instruction and is a Justice of the Peace with the NSW Attorney General’s Department. She has also recently been appointed as the President of the Springwood District and Chamber of Commerce.
What is your experience of being a micro business. Is it by design or a starting plan only?
It is by design that Mountains Pilates is a micro-business. The vision in 2015 was to offer one small group matwork class in Springwood on a weekly basis and I hoped to attract 6-8 people a week. So I commenced Pilates certification training and launched my first class. Within a few months of commencing, the demand was high and a growing waitlist of people wanting to join had started. Therefore I launched a second class. Within 12 months I had 5 large group matwork classes of 100 people attending each week.
At this time I mentored an existing Mountains Pilates client to become an instructor, and for the past 2 years she has been sub-contracted to assist with the delivery of the large group matwork classes as required. This has assisted me to have the time and energy to complete additional national accreditation training in classical Pilates, Pilates for back pain, reformer Pilates and Pilates for pregnancy. I have also completed all requirements to be recognised as an accredited Fitness Australia REP through Fitness Australia.
In 2017, after my second spine fusion operation, I resigned from my position as Executive Digital Manager for a financial services institution to focus 100% on building my business. The vision for the past 2 years has been to diversify and grow income streams for the business. This has involved launching 2 new brands, ‘Coast Pilates Retreats’ and ‘Love Pilates’.
Launching in 2018 Coast Pilates Retreats has organised 2 successful Pilates retreats at Pearl Beach and Le Chateau Terrigal in 2018. This enabled a $10,000 increase in annual revenue and was available to the general public to attend, not just existing clients from Mountains Pilates.
Launching in 2019 Love Pilates is focused on building a global Pilates community through Instagram, creating merchandise and long-term plans include licensing the ‘Love Pilates Brand’ to key Pilates events. Love Pilates business values are inclusive of Pilates practitioners from all cultures, religions and levels of ability.
What are 3 key factors that have led to your business succeeding?
Identifying a gap in the market has definitely been a significant catalyst to the success of Mountains Pilates. Understanding our community’s need to continue to exercise but delivered in gentler formats is very important in an area such as the Blue Mountains that has a median age of around 44 years old.
Perseverance and taking a long-term approach to the business development. I understood from the outset that it would be a two year journey of financial and personal investment before I would start to see a return. Having a realistic mindset from the beginning has helped me manage the times where cashflow is slow and also through personal health setbacks. Continuing to invest in personal development through skills and knowledge acquisition has been part of this long-term strategy.
Enthusiasm for life! Energising myself to stay fit, healthy, motivated and inspired in life has a positive flow on effect with my clients. Delivering positive energy to people along with professional and carefully designed programs is integral to my success. Offering simple and kind words of encouragement to people that make an effort to stay healthy is really valued by my clients. In a world of criticism and critics, it’s nice to hear the simple words like,’well done’, ‘I can see how far you have come’, ‘great effort’ and ‘that’s looking much better’! My client’s understand I continue to manage my own spine disability through engaging in regular and constant Pilates practice. Leading by example is another contributing factor in my business success.
What is your approach to sustaining or acquiring customers?
My approach to sustaining and acquiring customers is to provide value for money while creating a customer experience that has people feeling better after their session than when they arrived.
Contemporary exercise science is moving away from focusing solely on bio-mechanics to now engaging with biopsychosocial models whereby the whole person is engaged through exercise programs. This entails encompassing customers on a human level and engaging with them around topics including cultural, social, intellectual, familial, hobbies, work and personal beliefs. To understand, validate and acknowledge the entire customer existence and experiences while they focus on their own bodies provides a means where customers feel understood and respected for who they are, not just what they can do with their currently level of fitness.
As a sole-trader, my face and name is my brand. In every engagement in our small community I represent my business in my morals, ethics and personal integrity as a human. I behave in ways that demonstrate leadership by example and encourage other to pursue their own personal, professional and academic pursuits and dreams.
My marketing strategy involves maintaining a strong digital presence through my websites, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Word of mouth and referrals also see a large uptake by new clients. I purchase Facebook advertising when seeking to increase participation in my various classes by creating niche advertisements as required.
Mountains Pilates CRM system is set up so I send birthday messages to each client, I provide a monthly e-newsletter, create regular posts on Facebook and Instagram. I provide each client a gift at Christmas, usually a pair of non-slip socks to ensure their safety moving around in class and in their personal practice at home.
Most importantly I provide a space where people tell me they feel part of a community, within our community. My clients like having somewhere to come each week to focus on themselves, to have someone care about them and to help them discover their own strengths and weakness, along with delivering carefully designed Pilates programs to help clients move forward from their current abilities.
Everyone has physical health setbacks. It’s part of life and natural for the human body to get *sick. For those employed by others, time off work is managed through taking accumulated paid sick and holiday leave. For the small business owner though, physical setbacks can have an effect on your mental health worrying how you will manage your business and client’s needs.
Administration tasks mount, client appointments need to be cancelled, cashflow dries up and direct debits to contractors and suppliers continue. This is all whilst you may be trying to manage pain, nausea, low energy and rehabilitation exercises. It can be a time of major stress on the small business owner and their families on a physical, mental and financial level.
If we think of wellness as a holistic term, it would mean that your mind, body and spirit are operating at optimal levels to function at a level that is suitable to your physical and intellectual capabilities. However, when the body gets out of balance through illness, wellness takes a nose dive and survival kicks in.
So it is important to build a survival plan that focuses on keeping your health on a path to continual improvement, your relationships intact and your business thriving. This requires focus and good communication. Some survival plan tips include:
*Survival Plan applies to short-term illness, not chronic pain or terminal illness.
Ellissa Nolan MCA. JP, Gym & Pilates Instructor
Fitness Australia REP
Owner/Instructor Mountains Pilates Studio
If the thought of doing burpees makes you want to vomit then this article is for you!
Not all people jump out of bed excited to take on the day. It may involve 3 snooze alarms, a coffee and the thought of an unhappy boss or hungry kids to finally get you up.
Integrating exercise into daily habits is far better for your health than entering into a pattern of ‘bang and bust’. This means you start something with very strong intensions, physically go beyond your limits too quickly, and give up going back to channel surfing and scrolling Facebook at the same time. This may last 3 months and then you try again with a similar result.
Another pattern is that you may have been going well and over time either lost your motivation, are stressed out at work, time poor or have experienced injury and chronic pain. You may have put on more weight than you can bear to accept and, although you know you aren’t in great shape, you find it very difficult to change your eating and movement behaviors. Sadly this can affect your mood, your body perception, confidence and relationships.
This may be hard to accept, but no-one can change your behavior but you. It just takes one decision to become healthier. When you make that decision your mind will instruct your body what to do and your body will follow those instructions.
Here’s some simple ideas to get you moving.
Creating healthy new habits one day at a time will make you feel better, lose unnecessary weight, get stronger, be flexible and retain your independence for many years to come.
Be brave, make small positive changes and start moving!
Ellissa Nolan MCA. JP, Gym & Pilates Instructor
Fitness Australia REP
Owner/Instructor Mountains Pilates Studio
Media Release: 5 May 2018
Ellissa Nolan of Mountains Pilates has been named as a Finalist in the 2018 Altitude Awards in the category of Climb Every Mountain. This award is for best small business under 5 years.
Mountains Pilates has been operating for 3 years with Beginner/Intermediate classes in Springwood and Glenbrook and has recently launched 2 new classes in Faulconbridge.
Owner/Instructor Ellissa Nolan said, “Wow!! I’m thrilled to be selected as a Finalist in the Women With Altitude Awards. I’m honoured to be able to bring the benefits of Pilates to the Blue Mountains community and very grateful to have so many people who love to work out together each week. Each week we train over 140 mountains folk with gentle and effective movements to increase their strength, flexibility and body tone. It’s a highly rewarding health and fitness career!
“It’s been a whirlwind year rehabilitating from my 2nd spine fusion operation along with a car accident, while also starting a new service offering Clinical Pilates and Reformer sessions in collaboration with Oliver Webber from PhysioPoint in Springwood.
‘This year we’ve registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to help more people. Recently I’ve started in-home visits to help deliver gentle exercise programs for the elderly and people with Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
“Running my family life and own business in the Mountains is the most rewarding and exciting experience. Each day is different and our client’s needs are so diverse. We specialise in Pilates for Fitness, Clinical, Back Pain, Pregnancy, Reformer and with Small Equipment. I’m currently completing my national accreditation with a Diploma in Clinical Pilates so I am looking forward to working with more GP’s and Physiotherapists to help people with pain, injuries and returning awareness to the beautiful art of flexibility and movement”.
Phone: 0401 477 679
Women With Altitude Awards
The Altitude Awards are jointly presented by Women with Altitude & The Men’s Altitude Network and are held annually to provide an opportunity to acknowledge those who have made outstanding contributions as business owners, volunteers, employees, creative thinkers and leaders.
Women with Altitude founder, Andrea Turner-Boys says, “We look forward to this time each year when we celebrate and champion the achievements of individuals and even teams from our regions. Each finalist has been chosen for their outstanding contributions in their field and will be presented with their finalist certificates at a special cocktail party in their honour to be held in Penrith on the 10th of May.
An independent judging panel adjudicates the awards, and winners of each category will be announced at a gala awards ball on Saturday 2nd June at the Liverpool Catholic Club Event Centre.
Alongside the Commonwealth Bank, Complete Recruitment, Mooney Real Estate, Interactive Business Advisors and Penrith City Council have all come on board to sponsor the event with 17 award categories to be announced. The overall Inspirational individual of the Year will be awarded from the field of 16 category winners.
Join us on Tuesday mornings for an uplifting gentle pilates &/or stretch program.
New group pilates and stretch matwork classes will be held in Faulconbridge from May 2018.
Owner and Head Instructor for Mountains Pilates says "I am delighted to bring pilates to the Faulconbridge community within the beautiful space of the LKM Dance studios". Our aim to help people access the benefits of group matwork pilates classes, and a provide a safe and encouraging space to learn pilates, without leaving the mountains".
"Our classes are suitable for beginners, right through to the seasoned pilates practitioner. We offer different regressions and progressions of our exercises according to the ability of our participants".
7.00am - Group Pilates Matwork
8.00am - Group Stretch Class
If you've never tried pilates before now is a great time to step out of your comfort zone and try something new! There are no sign up contracts and you can pay as you go.
We do like to offer incentives to engage in exercise and offer a free class for every 10 classes attended!
Group matwork classes are $15 per session or $10 for concession card holders.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0401 477 679.